Authors: Richard Bachman
GLEN WAS GRINNING
. “State kid,” he said. He hit Blaze in the middle of Blaze's dented forehead and his grin faltered as pain exploded up his arm. Blaze's forehead was very hard, dented or not.
For a moment he forgot to back up and Blaze shot his fist out. He didn't use his body; he just used his arm like a piston. His knuckles connected with Glen's mouth. Glen screamed as his lips burst against his teeth and began to bleed. The yelling intensified.
Glen tasted his own blood and forgot about backing up. He forgot about taunting the ugly kid with the busted forehead. He just waded in, swinging roundhouse punches from port and starboard.
Blaze set his feet and met him.
The Long Walk
The Running Man
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2007 by Stephen King
Foreword copyright Â© 2007 by Stephen King
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For Tommy and Lori Spruce
And thinking of James T. Farrell
These are the slums of the heart.
This is a trunk novel, okay? I want you to know that while you've still got your sales slip and before you drip something like gravy or ice cream on it, and thus make it difficult or impossible to return.
It's a revised and updated trunk novel, but that doesn't change the basic fact. The Bachman name is on it because it's the last novel from 1966â1973, which was that gentleman's period of greatest productivity.
During those years I was actually two men. It was Stephen King who wrote (and sold) horror stories to raunchy skin mags like
but it was Bachman who wrote a series of novels that didn't sell to anybody. These included
The Long Walk, Roadwork,
The Running Man
All four were published as paperback originals.
was the last of those early novelsâ¦the fifth quarter, if you like. Or just another well-known writer's trunk novel, if you insist. It was written in late 1972 and early 1973. I thought it was great while I was writing it, and crap when I read it over. My recollection is that I never showed it to a single publisherânot even Doubleday, where I had made a friend named William G. Thompson. Bill was the guy who would later discover John Grisham, and it was Bill who contracted for the book following
a twisted but fairly entertaining tale of prom-night in central Maine.
I forgot about
for a few years. Then, after the other early Bachmans had been published, I took it out and looked it over. After reading the first twenty pages or so, I decided my first judgment had been correct, and returned it to purdah. I thought the writing was okay, but the story reminded me of something Oscar Wilde once said. He claimed it was impossible to read “The Old Curiosity Shop” without weeping copious tears of laughter.
was forgotten, but never really lost. It was only stuffed in some corner of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine with the rest of their Stephen King/Richard Bachman stuff.
ended up spending the next thirty years in the dark.
And then I published a slim paperback original called
The Colorado Kid
with an imprint called Hard Case Crime. This line of books, the brainchild of a very smart and very cool fellow named Charles Ardai, was dedicated to reviving old “noir” and hardboiled paperback crime novels, and publishing new ones.
was decidedly softboiled, but Charles decided to publish it anyway, with one of those great old paperback covers.
The whole project was a blastâ¦except for the slow royalty payments.
About a year later, I thought maybe I'd like to go the Hard Case route again, possibly with something that had a harder edge. My thoughts turned to
for the first time in years, but trailing along behind came that damned Oscar Wilde quote about “The Old Curiosity Shop.” The
I remembered wasn't hardboiled noir, but a three-handkerchief weepie. Still, I decided it wouldn't hurt to look. If, that was, the book could even be found. I remembered the carton, and I remembered the squarish type-face (my wife Tabitha's old college typewriter, an impossible-to-kill Olivetti portable), but I had no idea what had become of the manuscript that was supposedly inside the carton. For all I knew, it was gone, baby, gone.
It wasn't. Marsha, one of my two valuable assistants, found it in the Fogler Library. She would not trust me with the original manuscript (I, uh, lose things), but she made a Xerox. I must have been using a next-door-to-dead typewriter ribbon when I composed
because the copy was barely legible, and the notes in the margins were little more than blurs. Still, I sat down with it and began to read, ready to suffer the pangs of embarrassment only one's younger, smart-assier self can provide.
But I thought it was pretty goodâcertainly better than
which I had, at the time, considered mainstream American fiction. It just wasn't a noir novel. It was, rather, a stab at the sort of naturalism-with-crime that James M. Cain and Horace McCoy practiced in the thirties.
I thought the flashbacks were actually better than the front-story. They reminded me of James T. Farrell's
trilogy and the forgotten (but tasty)
. Sure, it was the three Ps in places,
but it had been written by a young man (I was twenty-five) who was convinced he was WRITING FOR THE AGES.
could be re-written and published without too much embarrassment, but it was probably wrong for Hard Case Crime. It was, in a sense, not a crime novel at all. I thought it could be a minor tragedy of the underclass, if the re-writing was ruthless. To that end, I adopted the flat, dry tones which the best noir fiction seems to have, even using a type-font called American Typewriter to remind myself of what I was up to. I worked fast, never looking ahead or back, wanting also to capture the headlong drive of those books (I'm thinking more of Jim Thompson and Richard Stark here than I am of Cain, McCoy, or Farrell). I thought I would do my revisions at the end, with a pencil, rather than editing in the computer, as is now fashionable. If the book was going to be a throwback, I wanted to play into that rather than shying away from it. I also determined to strip all the sentiment I could from the writing itself, wanted the finished book to be as stark as an empty house without even a rug on the floor. My mother would have said “I wanted its bare face hanging out.” Only the reader will be able to judge if I succeeded.
If it matters to you (it shouldn'tâhopefully you came for a good story, and hopefully you will get one), any royalties or subsidiary income generated by
will go to The Haven Foundation, which was created to help freelance artists who are down on their luck.
One other thing, I guess, while I've got you by the lapel. I tried to keep the
time-frame as vague as possible, so it wouldn't seem too dated.
It was impossible to take out all the dated material, however; keeping some of it was important to the plot.
If you think of this story's time-frame as “America, Not All That Long Ago,” I think you'll be okay.
May I close by circling back to where I started? This is an old novel, but I believe I was wrong in my initial assessment that it was a bad novel. You may disagreeâ¦but “The Little Match Girl” it ain't. As always, Constant Reader, I wish you well, I thank you for reading this story, and I hope you enjoy it. I won't say I hope you mist up a little, butâ
Yeah. Yeah, I
say that. Just as long as they're not tears of laughter.
Stephen King (for Richard Bachman)
January 30th, 2007
1. In saying this, I assume you're like me and rarely sit down to a mealâor even a lowly snackâwithout your current book near at hand.
2. With this exception: Bachman, writing under the pseudonym of John Swithen, sold a single hard-crime story, “The Fifth Quarter.”
3. Now out of print, and a good thing.
4. The Bachman novel following these was
and it was no wonder I got outed, since that one was actually written by Stephen Kingâthe bogus author photo on the back flap fooled no one.
5. I believe I am the only writer in the history of English story-telling whose career was based on sanitary napkins; that part of my literary legacy seems secure.
6. I have had the same reaction to
by Philip Roth, Thomas Hardy's
Jude the Obscure,
The Memory Keeper's Daughter,
by Kim Edwardsâat some point while reading these books, I just start to laugh, wave my hands, and shout: “Bring on the cancer! Bring on the blindness! We haven't had those yet!”
7. Not in an actual trunk, though; in a cardboard carton.
8. A dame with trouble in her eyes. And ecstasy, presumably, in her pants.
9. Also a throwback to the bad old paperback days, now that I think of it.
10. In my career I have managed to lose not one but two pretty good novels-in-progress.
Under the Dome
was only 50 pages long at the time it disappeared, but
was over 200 pages at the time it went MIA. No copies of either. That was before computers, and I never used carbons for first draftsâit felt
11. And, of course, it's an homage to
Of Mice and Men
âkinda hard to miss that.
12. Purple, pulsing, and panting.
13. To learn more about The Haven Foundation, you can go to my website. That be www.stephenking.com.
14. I didn't like the idea of Clay Blaisdell growing up in post-World War II America; all that has come to seem impossibly antique, although it seemed (and probably was) okay in 1973, when I was pecking it out in the trailer where my wife and I lived with our two children.
15. If I had written it today, certainly cell phones and Caller ID would have needed to be taken into consideration.